Bill to legalize recreational marijuana sales heads to Youngkin’s desk

If Gov. Youngkin signs the bill, sale of the drug would begin on May 1, 2025, and the products would be taxed at a rate of up to 11.6%—with 8% going to the state, 2.5% going to a local option tax, and 1.1% to K-12 education. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

By Isabel Soisson

March 1, 2024

Virginia’s Senate and House of Delegates have both passed companion bills that will allow recreational marijuana sales to begin in the commonwealth next year, if Gov. Glenn Youngkin chooses to sign the legislation into law. 

Competing bills setting up a retail market in the state were first introduced at the start of the legislative session, but the versions that passed on Wednesday were identical and the result of a compromise between the chambers, according to Senate lawmakers and Del. Paul Krizek (D-Fairfax), who introduced the bill in the House.

The legislation advanced mostly along party lines, with only a few Republicans in both the House and Senate backing it. 

Under Senate Bill 448 and House Bill 698, the state would start taking applications for cultivating, processing, testing, and selling cannabis on Sept. 1. Sale of the drug would begin on May 1, 2025, and the products would be taxed at a rate of up to 11.6%—with 8% going to the state, 2.5% going to a local option tax, and 1.1% to K-12 education. 

On the House floor earlier this week, Krizek said that the bills would create the state’s first retail market in a “responsible and thoughtful way.” 

“And we’ve done so because it’s time to give Virginia’s $3 billion illicit market a run for its money. And it’s time to give Virginians access to a safe, tested, and taxed product,” he added.

The bills would also allow for localities to hold a referendum on whether to prohibit retail marijuana stores in their areas.

In 2021, Virginia became the first Southern state to legalize marijuana. This policy change allowed for adults age 21 and up to possess and cultivate the drug. Home cultivation, adult sharing, and medicinal use of the drug are legal, as well.

The bills passed this week increase the amount of marijuana a person over 21 may possess from 1 ounce to 2.5 ounces. They contain an extended section on product labeling and packaging, as well. Products must identify all ingredients, for example, and the THC potency and possible allergens must be listed. The products must also contain a warning label and be sold in child-resistant packaging.

Any person caught cultivating, processing, or manufacturing marjuana without a proper license could be found guilty of a Class 6 felony. 

Krizek says that the bills also contain preferences for certain micro-businesses, a provision that’s intended to encourage individuals who have disproportionately been hurt by older marijuana laws, to participate in the industry.

“These preferences, which will be race-neutral, will offer significant economic opportunities for economically-disadvantaged persons, including persons who have suffered hardship or loss due to this country’s war on marijuana,” Krizek said.

While Gov. Youngkin hasn’t explicitly threatened to veto the legislation, he’s been vague on the issue of recreational sales. In the past, he’s said his attention is elsewhere. 

“I’ve said before, this is an area that I really don’t have any interest in,” he told reporters in January. “What I want us to work on are areas where we can find a meeting of the mind and press forward to the betterment of Virginia, and there are so many of them.”

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.


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